April 12, 2017

Gators QB Kyle Trask underwent knee surgery following spring game

Redshirt freshman Kyle Trask became the second Gators to undergo surgery this spring. 

As first reported by Gator Country's Nick De La Torre and later confirmed by a UF press release, Trask had surgery Wednesday to repair a torn meniscus. He is expected to be out about four weeks but should be cleared for the start of fall camp.

According to the Gator Country report, Trask suffered the injury about two weeks before the spring game. Trask competed with fellow redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks this spring for the starting quarterback job, with Franks now heading into the summer as the front runner. 

Luke Del Rio, who started six games for the Gators last season, sat out this spring after having a pair of shoulder surgeries.

More injuries

The aforementioned UF press release also said three football players are currently not on track to be ready for fall practice: Defensive lineman Jordan Sherit, receiver Rick Wells and tight end Harry Gronto.

"[T]hey will be reevaluated closer to camp and their status could change prior to the team's first practice," the release reads.

Sherit's potential absence is the biggest news of the three. The fifth-year senior has played in 32 games with 11 starts at defensive end and has recorded 66 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks.

Basketball: Hester transfers

The UF men's basketball announced Wednesday both that freshman shooting guard Eric Hester is transferring from the program, as first reported by Inside the Gators' Landon Watnick.

Hester played off the bench in 20 games during Florida's Elite Eight run but averaged just 5.6 minutes and 2.2 points per game. His highlight performance came against LSU, when he went 5-for-5 from three-point range and helped the Gators make a school record 19 shots from beyond the arc. 

Basketball: New commitment

Barely three hours after the Hester transfer news broke, UF announced that guard Michael Okauru signed a letter of intent to join the team. Okauru is ranked as a four-star prospect out of Raleigh, North Carolina.

“We’re happy to officially welcome Michael to the Gator family,” coach Mike White said in a release. “We expect him to be a great fit here, along with the rest of our incoming class, and look forward to having them on campus.”

Okauru's commitment, along with Florida's four other early signees, gives the Gators the ninth-ranked recruiting class for 2017.

April 09, 2017

Gators baseball avoids Tennessee sweep with 5-4 win

GAINESVILLE

With the Gators clinging onto a one-run lead in the eighth inning, Michael Byrne toed the rubber and eyed down Tennessee’s Justin Ammons.

After drawing the loss in both of the extra-inning games that opened the series, it was a tense situation for the sophomore pitcher: Bases loaded, two outs, full count.

But when the Gators needed him most on Sunday, Byrne pulled through. He forced Ammons to rip a pitch straight back to the pitcher’s mound, which Byrne fielded cleanly and tossed to first base for the inning-ended out before closing the door in the ninth.

No. 7 Florida salvaged the little it could in its three-game series with Tennessee by taking the finale 5-4 on Sunday afternoon.

Continue reading "Gators baseball avoids Tennessee sweep with 5-4 win" »

April 08, 2017

With short lineup and poor baserunning, Gators baseball drops series to Tennessee

Ryan Larson grabbed the ball off the wall in left-center field and hurled it back to the infield. When shortstop Dalton Guthrie bobbled the cutoff and underthrew the toss home, Tennessee’s Justin Ammons crossed home plate with relative ease and celebrated the eventual game-winning run in the top of the 10th inning.

Tennessee, a team that had just one conference win heading into the weekend, will now leave Gainesville with the series over the No. 7 Gators after winning its second straight extra-inning contest, this one a 3-2 decision on Saturday night. The Volunteers won the series opener 7-6 on Friday.

“We’ve won our share of one-run games, and now we’ve lost a couple in a row,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “All we can do is come back tomorrow and play a little better.”

Continue reading "With short lineup and poor baserunning, Gators baseball drops series to Tennessee" »

April 07, 2017

Former Gators LB Daniel McMillian arrested on sexual assault charge

McMillian
Daniel McMillian

Former Florida Gators linebacker Daniel McMillian was arrested late Thursday night and remains in the Alachua County Jail on Friday morning on charges of sexual assault (a first-degree felony) and false imprisonment (a third-degree felony).

According to a Gainesville Police Department arrest report, McMillian invited the alleged victim to his apartment around 3:40 p.m. on Thursday. Once she entered the residence, McMillian, 23, reportedly locked the door, blocked it and then exposed himself to her.

The victim asked to leave but, according to the report, McMillan approached her and grabbed her. The report states she kicked McMillian, unlocked the door and ran to safety.

The victim sustained a small scratch on her arm while attempting to escape and "was visibly shaking and hysterically crying" afterward when talking with officers, according to the report.

McMillian remains in the Alachua County Jail as of press time in lieu of a $40,000 bond.

McMillian, a Jacksonville native, played in 41 games at Florida, mostly as a reserve linebacker and on special teams. He recorded 65 career tackles in his four years. 

April 05, 2017

Florida football position preview: Outspoken Gardner ready to let his play do the talking

When he walked into Florida’s indoor practice facility last week, the normally outspoken Chauncey Gardner was quiet.

Gardner, heading into his sophomore year, is a versatile defensive back.

He can play outside corner, nickel and safety.

And he’s usually a talker filled with energy.

“Must have been having an off day,” UF coach Jim McElwain said a few days later.

Defensive backs coach Corey Bell added: “He’s a confident player, no doubt.”

McElwain and the Gators are hoping Gardner doesn’t have many off days on the field as he moves from a freshman reserve and special teams ace to helping replace three starters in Florida’s defensive backfield.

Gardner showed his potential late last season, starting the last three games at safety due to injuries to Marcus Maye and Nick Washington.

He recorded an interception early against Florida State in his first career start and then recorded two more (including one returned for a touchdown) in the Outback Bowl against Iowa to close out the season.

“They see we go [with] somebody back there who can do it,” Gardner said. “So they’re trusting me and I’m trusting them. That’s why I’m putting my process and working and getting everything better so I can help my teammates and get better.”

He and the rest of the defensive backs will need to get better quickly. The Gators lost three secondary starters from last year in Jalen Tabor, Quincy Wilson and Maye. Duke Dawson, Florida’s primary nickel corner last season, is moving outside to take over one of those spots. Gardner is holding down the second spot this spring due to lack of depth, but he could potentially move back inside or back to safety once the five freshman defensive backs arrive in Gainesville this summer.

“As long as he’s on the field,” Bell said, “we’re a better football team.”

 

DEFENSIVE BACKS ROOM

Key returners: Duke Dawson, Chauncey Gardner, Marcell Harris, Nick Washington, Joseph Putu

Key losses: Jalen Tabor, Quincy Wilson, Duke Dawson

Key additions: Shawn Davis, Brian Edwards, Brad Stewart, CJ Henderson, Marco Wilson

Key stats from 2016: 92.86 QB rating allowed (lowest nationally); 2:1 interception-to-touchdown ratio (No. 1 nationally); 148.5 yards allowed per game (No. 1 in SEC; No. 2 nationally)

Evaluation: The Gators are reloading in the secondary once again. Gone are three of their top playmakers and in come a handful of freshmen who will need to make an immediate impact if “DBU” wants to continue to hold that title. Look for Marcell Harris and Duke Dawson to take on increased leadership roles this season and for a freshman (maybe two) to get starts early.

April 04, 2017

Highlights from Mike White's season-ending press conference

White

-Photo by Jordan McPherson

Second-year UF coach Mike White on Tuesday met with media for the last time this season. White, fresh off a mini beach vacation with his family and a bout with the flu, gave some insights on the trajectory of the program and his expectations for players moving forward. Here are the highlights.

Egbunu likely to test NBA waters

Add John Egbunu to the list of players contemplating going pro early.

White said Egbunu, a 6-11, 255-pound center who is set to graduate at the end of the month, will likely test the NBA waters.

Egbunu, who transferred to UF from the University of South Florida in 2014, had a solid season. The big man averaged 7.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game before suffering a season-ending torn ACL against Auburn on Feb. 14.

Continue reading "Highlights from Mike White's season-ending press conference" »

April 03, 2017

Florida football position preview: Gators looking for outside pass rusher on defensive line

Antonneous Clayton is eating 6,000 calories a day to bulk up.

CeCe Jefferson has dropped about 25 pounds since he arrived on campus.

The two are taking opposite routes with their weight, but their goal is the same. With Florida losing eight defensive starters, including two on the defensive line, Clayton and Jefferson are working diligently to shore up the Gators’ outside pass rush.

“Pass rushing is fun,” Jefferson said. “Setting the edge is fun and I just enjoy it.”

Florida needs it. Being able to rush four more often instead of bringing in consistent blitz packages will allow Florida’s younger linebackers to roam in the backfield and help a defensive backs group that lost three starters with pass protection.

“I hope we get a guy that [is] capable of rushing the passer,” defensive line coach Chris Rumph said. “… All that will come along. We'll get it."

Jefferson and Clayton, blue chip prospects from the last two recruiting classes, both have the potential to be that guy. Jefferson has played in 26 career games (10 starts) and has a knack for getting into the backfield. He has 15 career tackles for loss and has the ability to compete with most offensive linemen.

Clayton has had a rougher start to his collegiate career. The former five-star recruit found himself in Rumph’s doghouse early. He didn’t fully grasp the playbook, he was underweight, and he wasn’t used to the faster pace of the game.

All in all, Clayton played in five games in 2016, with his lone highlight being a fumble recovery in the win over Vanderbilt.

This spring, he’s up to 250 pounds and is focused on playing an overall more physical game. Clayton credits the older defensive linemen for helping him mentally adjust.

“They’re like, ‘Hey man, you’ve got to be a dog. You can’t come in here and just scare. You’ve got to be confident in yourself and also in your abilities as a run-stopper and also as a pass-rusher,’” Clayton said. “If it wasn’t for those guys, I’d probably still be at my high school level.”

Clayton and Jefferson are not going to be doing it alone, though.

Rumph makes it a priority to frequently rotate players throughout games. This way, when the fourth quarter comes along, his starters are still fresh and his younger linemen are gaining experience.

“By throwing them in the fire early,” Jefferson said, “I think it opens their eyes to show them he’s there for them.”

DEFENSIVE LINE ROOM

Key returners: CeCe Jefferson, Khairi Clark, Taven Bryan, Jabari Zuniga

Key losses: Caleb Brantley, Joey Ivie, Bryan Cox Jr.

Key additions: Kyree Campbell

Look out for: Taven Bryan

2016 Stats: 31 sacks (fourth in SEC); 80 tackles for loss (sixth in SEC); 3.84 yards per rush allowed (fourth in SEC)

Evaluation: Florida’s defensive line once again has promise this season. CeCe Jefferson is a high-motor guy and it looks like he’ll be playing on the edge this season, which is his natural spot. Jabari Zuniga led the Gators a year ago with five sacks and was second with 8.5 tackles for loss. The biggest question mark will be the interior of the line. Taven Bryan, heading into his redshirt junior year, has performed at a consistently high level throughout the spring and has earned praise from both head coach Jim McElwain and Rumph. How that translates into live game production will be key.

April 02, 2017

Florida football position preview: Linebacker Vosean Joseph primed for more big hits

Florida fans still remember the play.

LSU quarterback Danny Etling rolled to his right and started scrambling toward the end zone.

Vosean Joseph had other plans.

Joseph, a freshman who had minimal playing time up until that game, pulverized Etling and forced him out of bounds. Two plays later, the Tigers missed a field goal. One play after that, UF’s Austin Appleby hit receiver Tyrie Cleveland for a 98-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the eventual 16-10 win.

But as Joseph heads into his second year with the program, he’s confident that play is just the tip of the iceberg.

“They ain’t seen nothing yet,” the Miami Norland High alumnus said. “Trust me.”

He’s in a prime position to make a major impact this season.

Joseph played in all 13 games as a freshman. Most of his early contributions were on special teams until veterans Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis suffered injuries midway through the year.

From there, he moved up the depth chart and made his first career start in the Outback Bowl. He ended the season with 13 total tackles, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery.

“When you ask me what I look for in a linebacker — tough, hard-nosed, physical — he is that. Every day,” linebackers coach Tim Skipper said. “He will hit you. … He loves that part of the game.”

Now, Joseph needs to prioritize the game plan and memorize the schemes. With the Gators fielding a young linebacker corps next season -- Florida’s most veteran scholarship linebacker is rising redshirt sophomore Kylan Johnson -- any mental lapse will be magnified.

The hits will come, he said, but when they come matters just as much.

“I have to take a step back,” he said. “Us linebackers, young linebackers, we have to just try to make plays, focus on making plays, we weren’t focusing on the system or coaching. We were just trying to make plays to get our name.

“As long as we play within the defense, we’re gonna make plays regardless.”

 

LINEBACKER ROOM

Key returners: David Reese, Vosean Joseph, Kylan Johnson, Jeremiah Moon, Cristian Garcia

Key departures: Alex Anzalone, Jarrad Davis

Additions for 2017: James Houston (early enrollee), Ventrell Miller, Nick Smith, Lacedrick Brunson

Evaluation: Youth, health and, at least for the spring, lack of depth are the biggest issue for Florida’s linebackers. David Reese, Florida’s projected starting middle linebacker, is out for spring camp with a wrist injury. Early enrollee James Houston is limited while recovering from a high school ACL injury. Second-year linebacker Jeremiah Moon is also coming back from a foot injury that kept him on the sideline for his freshman season. That leaves Florida with just three options this spring who have valuable experience in senior walk-on Cristian Garcia, rising sophomore Vosean Joseph and redshirt sophomore Kylan Johnson. Head coach Jim McElwain even moved tight end Camrin Knight to linebacker for the spring to have another body there. Once Reese is healthy and Moon gets up to speed -- and when Florida three other freshman linebackers get to campus in the summer -- the depth chart will start sorting itself out. Until then, though, linebackers coach Tim Skipper is working with what he has at his disposal.

The numbers behind Florida baseball's successful past two weeks

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-Photos by Jordan McPherson

The Florida baseball team seems to have found its groove. Since being swept by Auburn two weekends ago, the ninth-ranked Gators have won seven of their past eight games -- including all five games played away from their home field at McKethan Stadium. Now fresh off its first conference sweep of the season at Missouri, let’s take a look at the numbers being Florida’s recent success.

Continue reading "The numbers behind Florida baseball's successful past two weeks" »

Florida football position preview: Ivey ready to lead the offensive line

Our Florida football position previews continue with a look at the offensive line.

 

It was only a matter of time before Martez Ivey moved back outside.

For his first two years with the Florida Gators, the former top offensive line prospect was pushed inside and played guard while David Sharpe played left tackle.

But with Sharpe leaving school early for the NFL Draft, Ivey is transitioning back to his natural left tackle spot for the 2017 season and is ready to take on the leadership role that comes with it.

“I’ve been here for two years and have experience,” Ivey said. “Everybody looks at me to be a leader. When we’ve got a problem, they come to me for like being their voice and speaking up.”

Ivey has been successful so far in his college career. The 6-5, 305-pound lineman played in 25 games (20 starts) during his first two seasons with the Gators and was named second-team All-SEC as a sophomore. He was a steady fixture on the line late in the season, when as many as three starters were out at any given time due to injury.

“It is a big step for him,” Sharpe said. “It is not easy at all but I think he can handle it. He is a great player.”

And now, McElwain and first-year offensive line coach Brady Davis are challenging Ivey and the rest of the offensive line to get better.

More specifically, the coaches want more energy, more aggression and more quickness from the guys up front. McElwain’s message to the offensive line in its simplest terms: Do everything right.

“It starts in the trenches,” Ivey said. “They go as we go … so we got to push the tempo, we got to lead, we got to encourage everyone around us.”

The leadership will be needed with a first year quarterback to protect and three running backs with different skill sets to block for. The offensive line will need to step up quick, and Ivey said he’s ready to take the charge.

“It’s time for us to step up,” he said.

OFFENSIVE LINE ROOM

Key departures: Tackle David Sharpe (NFL Draft), center Cam Dillard (graduate transfer)

Projected starting lineup: Martez Ivey (LT), Tyler Jordan or Brett Heggie (LG), T.J. McCoy (C), Fred Johnson (RG), Jawaan Taylor (RT)

Key Stat: 28 sacks allowed (tied for fourth-most in SEC and 17 less than the 2015 season)

April 01, 2017

No. 3 Florida gymnastics punches ticket to nationals after strong regional finish

GAINESVILLE

It was a shaky start, but Florida once again found a way to pull through.

Forget about sophomore Alicia Boren’s missed handstand on the bars to open the meet and freshman Rachel Gowey’s fall on the apparatus two routines later.

Forget about the .325 deficit the third-ranked Gators had against Georgia halfway through the meet.

And forget about the nerves and the tenseness this normally upbeat team felt as they entered their locker room with two events left.

Florida stormed through the final two rotations and overcame that early deficit to win the Gainesville Regional of the NCAA Gymnastics Championships on Saturday punched its ticket to nationals in St. Louis with a score of 197.125. The Bulldogs also advanced to nationals with a 196.775 score to take second in the O’Connell Center.

“Glad that’s over,” a relieved UF coach Jenny Rowland said immediately after the meet before letting out a brief yell of excitement.

It was a trying meet early on for the home team.

After those two mishaps on the bars, Florida finished with three stuck routines from junior Kennedy Baker (9.875), freshman Amelia Hundley (9.900) and junior Alex McMurtry (9.95).

“I’m normally pretty chill, but I was a little nervous that time,” Baker said of following up Gowey’s fall.

An 49.225 team score on the beam one rotation later -- highlighted by a 9.9 from McMurtry in the anchor spot -- gave Florida momentum heading into its bye.

“I could tell back there the weight had been lifted off our shoulders,” Rowland said.

Florida responded and closed out the meet with the top-two scoring rotations: A 49.45 on the floor and a 49.475 on the vault.

“We picked up some momentum there and we just had a blast,” said McMurtry, who was named the Southeast Region Gymnast of the Year and had the highest individual all-around score with a 39.675. “It was our last time this season in front of our fans. I think we did really well and built off every single score.”

Rowland added: “Regionals is always a challenging meet,” Rowland said. “It’s something that we don’t talk about. It’s do or die. You qualify or you don’t qualify.”

And now, Florida has qualified for nationals. Again. UF is heading to nationals for the 35th time in the 36-year history of the event and has a chance to win its fourth national title in five years.

“This team showed a lot of heart, a lot of determination and a lot of fight,” Rowland said. “It’s not over until that last routine.”

What you need to know ahead of the NCAA Gymnastics Regional

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-Photo by Jordan McPherson

The No. 3 Florida gymnastics team serves as the host one of six NCAA Regional meets this weekend, the final competition before the NCAA Championships in St. Louis. The meet, which features six teams, will begin at 4 p.m. on Saturday in the O’Connell Center. A live stream will also be available on the SECNetwork+. But before teams take to the competition floor, here’s a quick look at what you need to know about the competition and the road ahead as college gymnastics begins postsesason action.

Continue reading "What you need to know ahead of the NCAA Gymnastics Regional" »

Florida football position previews: Speedy Massey's speedy recovery a plus for UF's receivers

Due to a slight change of events, I will be holding off on writing about the running backs until later in the series. Part 2 will now focus on the wide receivers.

Dre Massey was with his mom when he found out his first football season with the Gators was over before it could ever really start.

The speedy receiver and junior college transfer tore his ACL on the opening kickoff of Florida’s season, sidelining him for the rest of the season.

He was heartbroken at first. But then, after looking at his mom, he smiled.

“[It’s] like another storm,” Massey said. “We have to fight one more thing. And I’ll be back.”

Massey has fought through a lot to get to where he is in life.

He moved around a lot as a child. His dad died in a car accident before high school. His grades suffered for a period afterward.

He didn’t receive Division I offers because of his academics, forcing him to attend Holmes Community College in Goodman, Mississippi -- a small town of less than 1,500 people that didn’t even have a McDonald’s.

“That's why a lot of things don't really get me down,” Massey said.

And that’s why the versatile receiver has made it his mission to get back on the field.

Massey is limited to non-contact drills this spring while he finishes up the final bouts of his rehab, but one look at practice shows that he is close to being 100 percent ready to go.

During individual drills, Massey is able to make cuts with ease. His route running isn’t the crispest, but it’s improving.

And he’s still blistering fast.

“It’s tough to tell he went through an ACL except a couple times when you see the big brace,” receivers coach Kerry Dixon said.

That’s a good sign for Florida, which plans to use Massey in a myriad of ways this season.

His primary spot on the field looks to be slot receiver due to his 5-9, 180-pound frame. His speed, however, should provide a valiant mismatch against nickel corners and linebackers over the middle.

UF coach Jim McElwain said he also plans to use Massey in select packages out of the backfield as both a quarterback and a running back.

Whatever the situation, though, Massey endorses it as long as he has a chance to get touches.

“Whenever I touch the ball,” Massey said, “I can score anytime.”

But even if the ball isn’t going in Massey’s direction, his ability to spread the field will open opportunities for the rest of the receiving corps, a group that includes junior Antonio Callaway, senior Brandon Powell and sophomores Tyrie Cleveland, Freddie Swain and Josh Hammond.

“He’s one of those guys that I’m extremely excited to get back,” Dixon said. “I know he’s going to be special.”

 

THE RECEIVERS ROOM

Key players on roster: Junior Antonio Callaway, redshirt junior Dre Massey, sophomore Tyrie Cleveland, sophomore Josh Hammond, sophomore Freddie Swain, senior Brandon Powell

Players lost: Ahmad Fulwood, Chris Thompson, C.J. Worton

Coming this summer: Freshmen Daquon Green and James Robinson

Key Stats from 2016: 11.6 yards per catch (13th in SEC); Seven catches longer than 40 yards (tied for 11th in SEC)

Evaluation: The Gators are dealing with a lack of numbers this spring with Freddie Swain being held out for all of spring camp with a shoulder injury and Dre Massey only participating in non-contact drills. This leaves Florida with just six scholarship receivers until the summer, when Daquon Green and James Robinson join the team and the others get medically cleared. However, the group as a whole has promise. The return of Massey and the late development last season from Tyrie Cleveland give Florida more options to spread the ball around, which should take some pressure off Antonio Callaway.

March 30, 2017

Gators Position Preview: Franks looking to improve accuracy during QB battle

Editor’s Note: Starting today, I will be breaking down a different position group every day heading into Florida’s spring game on April 7. Each post will start with a mini feature on one player at each position and then transition to a nuts-and-bolts look at the group as a whole. First up, the quarterbacks.

Feleipe Franks re-watched Florida’s 2016 spring game.

And then he watched it again. And again. And again.

On that day, his first appearance in front of the home crowd, Franks threw three interceptions and looks out of sorts just about every time he dropped back to pass. He completed just five of his 11 pass attempts.

“You take everything away from it,” Franks said last week. “You learn from it, you learn from your mistakes. You go back and look at the film and see what you did wrong and then not do it again.”

That’s been Franks’ focus this spring as he battles with classmate Kyle Trask to become Florida’s next starting quarterback. Coach Jim McElwain said the race is still close, and Florida’s April 7 spring game will likely be the final factor in determining who will get the opportunity to start under center for the Gators on Sept. 2 against Michigan.

Franks, a 6-6 gunslinger, is known for his deep passes down the field, the ones that skirt the sideline that he hopes to place in his receiver’s hands for a big play.

But his accuracy in the short and mid-range passing game is the make-or-break factor for the 19-year-old.

He’s shown development.

On the first play of practice Wednesday, Franks dropped back, went through his progressions and fired a dart to his left toward Antonio Callaway about 10 yards down the field for an easy completion. It wasn’t the flashiest play of Franks’ career by any sense, but it’s the type of play the Gators will be looking for from the redshirt freshman should he win the quarterback job.

“I think everything in my game is improved,” Franks said. “I think coach Mac and coach Nuss did a great job just coaching me up and kind of building me into like what a quarterback needs to be."

But in order for him to show Florida fans what kind of quarterback he is, he still needs to edge out Trask.

“It’s a great competition between me and Kyle,” Franks said. “It’s the best one I’ve ever been a part of. It’s going to make me and him better every day and that’s everybody on the team -- better every day.”

 

QUARTERBACK ROOM

Key players on roster: redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks, redshirt freshman Kyle Trask, redshirt junior Luke Del Rio

Key players lost: Austin Appleby

Don’t overlook: True freshman Kadarius Toney, who could be used in different Wildcat-type packages this season.

Key Stats from 2016: 215.8 passing yards/game (6th in SEC), 18 passing touchdowns (8th in SEC), 15 interceptions (tied for most in SEC)

Evaluation: Florida is primed to start yet another new face at quarterback this season, bringing the number to 10 since Tim Tebow’s final season in 2009. Franks has the potential to be a serviceable starter if he can continue improving his accuracy, but there are still doubts about whether the Gators’ long-term solution at quarterback is currently on the roster.

Friday's segment will feature the running backs.

March 28, 2017

Florida baseball uses big first inning, solid pitching to top FSU in Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE

Mike Rivera watched the ball sail toward left field until it finally landed over the fence.

He wasn’t aiming for a home run, he would say, but after he circled the bases and tagged home in the first inning against Florida State, it all but sealed Florida’s win.

Rivera’s first home run of the season capped a four-run first inning and lifted No. 9 Florida to a 4-1 win over the 12th-ranked Seminoles on Tuesday at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, home of the Marlins’ double-A affiliate Jumbo Shrimp. The win clinched the regular-season series for Florida (17-9), which has now won 14 of its past 17 against Florida State.

“Usually when the ball’s in the air, I’m going to watch it,” Rivera said. “I’m not very fast, so I don’t have to hustle.”

The early 4-0 lead set the stage well for freshman pitcher Garrett Milchin, who made his first collegiate start on the mound on Tuesday. The 6-5 righty tossed 4.1 scoreless innings on a pitch count, giving up just two hits and three walks and striking out a batter in the process, to earn his first career win in front of a split crowd of 8,927.

“I felt pretty good,” Milchin said. “I had a little bit of jitters the first inning, but I threw the first pitch in there, it felt good, and I kind of settled in.”

Milchin’s lone rough inning came in the third. He led off the frame by walking FSU’s Nick Derr, who advanced to second one batter later on a Matt Henderson groundout. Two batters later, Milchin walked Jackson Leuck before coach Kevin O’Sullivan made a trip to the mound. Milchin responded by forcing Cal Raleigh to fly out to center field.

Florida State (18-8) scored its lone run of the game in the sixth inning off UF reliever Nate Brown. Rhett Aplin hit a dribbler off second baseman Deacon Liput’s glove. The ball bounced into shallow center field, allowing Quincy Nieporte to score from second.

From there, sophomore Michael Byrne took the mound and retired 11 of Florida State’s final 12 batters to earn his second save of the year.

“I’m hoping our younger pitchers are watching [how Byrne pitches] because he’s throwing 87, 89, touches 90, but he commands the ball and it sinks,” O’Sullivan said. “He knows who he is.”

The efficient pitching -- along with quality defense from third baseman Jonathan India and shortstop Christian Hicks -- was needed considering Florida managed just two hits after the first inning.

“Make no mistake about it,” O’Sullivan said. “We’ve struggled offensively for the first 20 games or so, but I did see life after the Stetson game [last Tuesday] … and then I thought against LSU [last weekend], I thought we swung the bats better.”

Florida, which has now won four of its past five games since being swept by Auburn to open SEC play two weekends ago, will next hit the road for a three-game series against Missouri starting Friday. The Tigers have lost three of their past four after rattling off a 20-game win streak.

March 27, 2017

Cameron Newbauer hired as next Florida women's basketball head coach

The Florida women’s basketball program has its next head coach.

The school announced Monday night that it has hired Belmont’s Cameron Newbauer to take over the program that has failed to live up to expectations.

Newbauer, 38, has led Belmont for the last four seasons and reached the NCAA Tournament each of the past two years by winning the Ohio Valley Conference. Last season, his Bruins went a perfect 16-0 in conference play before falling 73-70 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Kentucky.

Prior to becoming a head coach, Newbauer was a successful assistant coach at Siena (2001-05), Georgia (men’s team from 2005-07; women’s team from 2008-11) and Louisville (2011-13).

“Cameron Newbauer brings energy, vision and an incredible work ethic to the University of Florida,” Stricklin said in a release. “In addition to developing well-coached teams, he’s a hard-charger when it comes to recruiting and fan engagement. … I share his confidence that he can build Florida women’s basketball into a conference and national contender.”

The move comes three weeks after Amanda Butler was fired after 10 seasons on the job and is the first head coaching hire by new Florida Athletics Director Scott Stricklin. In her tenure,  Butler posted a 190-137 record, never finished hired than fourth in the Southeastern Conference and never made it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament in four appearances.

Florida finished the 2016-17 season with a 15-16 record (5-11 in SEC play), their second losing record in the last three seasons. The season looked promising heading in, with UF ranked No. 20 in the country in the preseason. However, senior guard Simone Westbrook tore her ACL before the season began and star combo guard Eleanna Christinaki transferred out of the program in December after she opted not to accept a half-game suspension for "violation of team culture." UF played most of the season with eight or nine healthy players, four of them freshmen.

“I know what we’d like to become; we want to be a tough, hard-working group that really cares for each other,” Newbauer said in a release. “We’re going to have fun. I want people to get to know us. We will welcome the community and want them to help build a tremendous environment.”

The Gators were reportedly also interested in San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon. The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported last week that Hammon was considering a “lucrative offer” from Florida, but she declined the offer on Monday.

March 26, 2017

Gators baseball collapses late, drops series finale to LSU 10-6

GAINESVILLE

Florida looked like it had the game in the bag.

A 5-0 lead heading in the sixth inning on Sunday seemed like it would be enough for the 11th-ranked Gators, especially considering No. 5 LSU had scored just one run in the first two games and its offense had yet to record a hit with runners in scoring position.

But the Tigers found life in the final two innings, scoring eight unanswered runs to take the 10-6 win and avoid the series sweep.

Most of LSU’s damage came in the eighth inning.

Down 6-2 with Florida’s bullpen in full action, the Tigers (18-7, 4-2 SEC) hit three two-run home runs within the span of five batters to take its first lead of the series, 8-6, and chase four Florida pitchers off the mound. LSU added another pair of runs in the ninth to close it after Florida opened the series with 1-0 and 8-1 wins.

“It’s disappointing,” said UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan, who was with his team in the third-base dugout for about 10 minutes after the game. “It’s a disappointing loss.”

It started with Jackson Kowar, the sophomore righty who lasted just 5 2/3 innings and gave up four hits and five walks while only striking out three. He was pulled after loading the bases in the sixth with a pair of walks and a single. Two of those runs came around to score.

Of Kowar’s 94 pitches, just 58 were strikes and he had trouble commanding his fastball throughout the game.

“The standards here are pretty simple: You throw strikes or you’re not going to pitch,” Kowar said. “I didn’t throw strikes today. I didn’t get it done.”

Florida (16-9, 2-4 SEC) opened scoring in the third when Ryan Larson came home on a double steal. The Gators added a second run in the fourth on a Nelson Maldonado home run and then brought in three more in the seventh on a two-out, bases-loaded walk to JJ Schwarz and a full-count two-RBI single to shallow center field from Jonathan India to take a 5-0 lead.

LSU tacked on two when a Jordan Beau single to right center off Michael Byrne brought two across in the sixth.

A Schwarz sac fly to deep right field in the seventh gave Florida the 6-2 advantage before LSU dropped eight straight in the final two frames to leave Gainesville with a win.

“We just had to do a better job competing,” Schwarz said. “Whenever you get the chance to sweep on an SEC weekend, you have to take advantage and have that killer instinct. We didn’t have it today.”

March 25, 2017

Gators baseball clinches series vs. LSU but is 'here for the sweep'

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-Photo by Jordan McPherson

As the groundball rolled toward second base and Deacon Liput fired it to JJ Schwarz for the game-ending out on Saturday, Brady Singer pumped his chest and raised his right hand toward the sky.

The sophomore right-handed pitcher has been on his game all season, but his performance in No. 11 Florida’s series-clinching win over fifth-ranked LSU felt a little sweeter.

Singer threw his first career complete-game, giving up just six hits and one earned run to lead the Gators to an 8-1 victory at McKethan Stadium.

“It was really fun,” said Singer, who tossed Florida’s first complete game of the season. “I’m happy I pitched well.”

Continue reading "Gators baseball clinches series vs. LSU but is 'here for the sweep'" »

March 24, 2017

Alex Faedo responds to carry No. 11 Florida to 1-0 win over No. 5 LSU

GAINESVILLE

After Alex Faedo opened Southeastern Conference play with one of the worst showings of his collegiate career -- six earned runs surrendered, a career-high six walks allowed and just five strikeouts in a 14-6 loss -- Kevin O’Sullivan pulled him aside in practice this week.

The coach knew his ace pitcher could do better.

“A lot of yelling,” Faedo said. “But you have to take it the right way.”

Faedo, the 6-5 junior righty who has a chance to be a top-10 pick when the MLB Draft rolls around, responded in probably the best way he could. He worked seven scoreless innings against a hot-hitting LSU team, striking out seven and not giving up a walk to carry No. 11 Florida to a 1-0 win over the fifth-ranked Tigers at McKethan Stadium on Friday night.

Throwing in front of a crowd of 4,485 and at least a dozen scouts, just about every aspect of Faedo’s game was working. He hit his fastball consistently in the mid-90s, his slider was killer when he was ahead in the count and his energy on the mound jacked up the dugout every time he walked off the mound and put a zero on the scoreboard.

"There's never a doubt with Alex,” second baseman Deacon Liput said. “You know what you're going to get when he gets on the mound. ... Even after the thing in Auburn, I knew damn well he was going to come back."

And come back he did, giving the Gators (15-8, 1-3 SEC) a performance on the mound they needed after the offense did just enough to win.

After stranding four runners in the first five innings -- including leaving the bases loaded in the fifth despite getting all three runners on with no outs -- Florida scored the lone run of the game in the sixth inning. Liput started it off with a leadoff double, his second of three hits of the night. Fellow sophomore Jonathan India moved Liput to third on a sacrifice bunt before JJ Schwarz hit a pitch to the warning track deep in left field for the sacrifice fly to bring Liput home and ultimately give the Gators their first conference win of the season after being swept last weekend by Auburn for the first time since 1987.

“We needed to win one,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Obviously losing all three last weekend put ourselves a little bit behind the eight ball. It was a game we needed to win.”

After Faedo left the game with 114 pitches to his name, Michael Byrne, Andrew Baker and Tyler Dyson closed the game out for Florida with a pair of scoreless innings. Dyson earned his second save of the year by striking out the side.

“Alex pitched his butt off,” Dyson said. “He’s our anchor. He’s our ace and he’s the guy that we look to. When he has a performance like that and then Byrne and Baker come in, it’s important for me to come in and shut the door.”

Alex Lange, a potential first-round pick in his own right, drew the loss for LSU (17-6, 3-1 SEC) despite giving up just six hits in eight innings of work and retiring UF in order in four of those innings. He struck out seven.

Florida will look to clinch the series Saturday at 3 p.m. The three-game set concludes Sunday at 1 p.m.

After sluggish start, Gators baseball looking for turnaround against No. 5 LSU

After a couple of sloppy plate appearances during practice Wednesday, UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan called a team meeting just outside their third-base dugout.

It’s been a rough week for the Gators, who were swept last week by Auburn for the first time since 1987 and needed extra innings Tuesday night to defeat a struggling Stetson team.

“I’m tired of losing,” the coach told his team, which fell to No. 11 in the D1baseball poll after opening the year six weeks ago as the No. 2 team in the country.

The team is pressing and most of the offense is in a slump. Not exactly the ideal scenario to set up a three-game weekend set with LSU that starts on Friday.

But with that new series, one that has the potential to start a much-needed turnaround for the 14-8 Gators, O’Sullivan is stressing the importance of closing the door on the rough patch that opened the season and starting anew.

“You think of it as a new season,” the 10th-year head coach said. “There’s nothing we can do about last weekend. It’s over and done with. And that’s kind of the mentality that we’ve got to have.”

But until the hitters start producing at the plate, last weekend’s shellacking at Auburn -- and the hitting struggles evident throughout the first month and a half -- will still likely be in their heads.

Heading into the series with LSU, the Gators have a .243 team batting average, which is second-worst in the 14-team Southeastern Conference. Three hitters with at least 40 at-bats have more strikeouts than hits: JJ Schwarz (19 hits, 24 strikeouts), Deacon Liput (14 hits, 20 strikeouts) and Keenan Bell (12 hits, 13 strikeouts). Florida has posted a batting average below .200 in seven of its 22 games this season, including two of its three losses against Auburn.

“Inevitably you always got a guy or two that’s struggling, and two other guys have picked the offense up. I’m not quite sure I’ve seen this many guys struggle at the same time,” O’Sullivan said. “And I think what probably we’re doing, we’re probably putting too much pressure on themselves. Each guy probably has taken it upon themselves to pick up the offense. And I think swings have gotten really big, and I think they’re swinging too hard.”

Players have said it’s just a matter of time before they start putting everything together.

“Once we start clicking, we’ll be a scary team,” third baseman Jonathan India said. “We’ll be fine. We’re all right.”

They’ll need a full team effort against No. 5 LSU (17-5), one of the most complete teams in the SEC and the country.

On offense, the Tigers have five regulars batting above .300, with Cole Freeman leading the way with a .400 clip that is tied for fourth-highest in the conference. Senior Kramer Roberson leads the SEC with 33 runs scored and had 10 runs alone in LSU’s three-game sweep over Georgia. For comparison, the Gators scored nine total runs as a team in their three losses to Auburn.

On the mound, LSU has potential first-round pick Alex Lange and senior Jared Poche’ to lead off their weekend rotation. Lange, a junior righty, is 3-1 on the year and ranked seventh in the conference with 36 strikeouts. Poche’, a soft-throwing lefty whose fastball doesn’t reach 90 mph, has given up just one earned run in 36 innings of work this season.

“It’s a good rivalry,” India said. “We’re both great teams, great programs for years. It’s a great SEC rivalry. We just have great players on each team.”


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